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The naked University

A considerable part of governmental officials, including ministers, are at the same time teachers in institutions of higher education. This has degraded the quality of teaching in this education level, making it a mockery of science

Prishtinë, 16 December 2013

The politics has stripped the University of Prishtina from any academic quality and lost any integrity of the academic staff. It has transformed UP into a base from where it aims to mobilize its constituency by using it for electoral purposes. For years on end, the University has functioned around a vicious circle between politics and higher education. While UP has been exploited as a base for launching many current politicians into politics, it has also used the University to decorate itself with the academic cloak, in order to obtain credibility in front of the public eye. Today, to be an academic staff in UP, you must necessarily be a vassal of politics and be stripped of any academic and professional attributes.

This research by Preportr has found that there is in this high education institution, an interconnected triangle of the impact of politics upon the recruitment of academic staff, and the selection of leading bodies. In addition, the research shows that there is a strong link between the high public positions, state governing bodies, and the academic staff of UP and private colleges.

A large number of academic staff, be that of Prishtina University, or private colleges, hold high political positions or act as directors of departments in government institutions.

According to the findings of Preportr, it results that a large part of the academic staff of UP, but also private colleges are either direct part of politics, ore faithfully serve it.

Prishtina University in this case is the biggest victim since almost all professors who are also politicians, consider their work in university as secondary. The university also has considerable lacking of staff with the highest degree, PHD. From the information Preportr has obtained from websites of three faculties, the Law, Economic and Philosophy, it results that half of the staff is with a master’s degree.

Preportr’s findings have shown that the recruitment of academic staff in UP, but also the selection of governing bodies cannot be carried out without a political affiliation or support, the Democratic Party of Kosovo being the leader in this.

Despite the fact that Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) has led the Ministry of Education since after the war, which had little or no impact at all in the University, it appears that UP has always been commanded by the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), through its ‘academic’ mercenaries. The powerful and direct influence of LDK in UP, according to Dukagjin Popovci, ended in October 1st 1997.

The entire leading structure of UP, ever since after the war, has either followed directly by politics, or indirectly was linked with politics by serving all parties who had power.

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But, the use of politics to benefit positions in university has not been a one-way road. Many professors and assistants have exploited the university to obtain important political posts, be that as members of parliament, political advisors, ministers, deputy ministers, municipal assembly presidents, etc.

Even student organizations, which never dealt with student problems, sided with politics when it needed them. This support was not offered only when ex-soldiers of KLA were being accused, or sentenced for war crimes. Leaders of student organizations who dealt with politics more than with student problems, today have very important positions in institutions of Kosovo.

University of politics

Prishtina University, since its establishment, has been the right arm of the most important political events Kosovo went through. Established in 1971, UP has been the leader of most important processes Kosovo went through beginning from demonstrations of 1981 and the events of 1997.

The role of the university has changed throughout the years. After the war, the efforts of few people from the academic world who were committed to depoliticizing this institution did not yield any fruits. The more years go by, UP is being exploited by politics for narrow interests of political groups or other groups of interest. The latest elections of the leading structures of this university only proved this even more. Apart from the rector who came directly from politics and who actively contributed to it during the elections campaign, also other members of the Leading Council, and some faculty deans have derived from political affiliations.

“Politics is present in the University of Prishtina and this situation continues from mid 90’s, usually expressed through the domination of different political groups inside the university”, says Dukagjin Popovci, education expert.

Pupovci says that the influence of politics is observed during the election of managing structures of the university, as well as in cases of appointment of academic staff.

“Thus, Prishtina University is not immune from the influence of politics, and when political interests are tangled up with academic issues then there can be serious negative impacts in quality”, he adds.

In its research, Preportr has found that many of ministers, members of parliament, political advisors, department directors of different government institutions are professors in Prishtina University but also in private colleges.

Leading structures derived from politics

Immediately after the war, Zejnel Kelmendi came in as head of University. Apart from occasionally serving political parties, she did not make any important impact in reforming and increasing the quality of the University.

This work was done by Georg Woeber, special advisor for high education in the Ministry of Education. The stumbling in high education, he justified with conditions through which this institution had gone, the only high education institution at that time. In Woeber’s time, Prishtina University acquired its statute.

During the time when Zejnel Kelmendi was rector (today he is the advisor of the Minister of Justicce, Hajredin Kuçi), Kuçi and Arsim Bajrami were awarded with land parcels in what is called the University neighborhood.

Municipality of Prishtina, department of Geodesy and Cadaster did not hesitate to place these parcels under the name of these two professors who were deputy leaders of the Democratic Party of Kosovo. Although the parcels were registered illegally, as it was said then, in their name, Kuçi and Bajrami were committing another violation – they had begun building their houses without a permit. At the time when the houses were built, the Director of Urbanism, Lulzim Nixha had reacted.

Following Kelmendi, for a short period of time Arsim Bajrami became rector of the University, who derived directly from politics. Bajrami was dismissed from the post by the Minister of Education, Rexhep Osmani, coming from LDK, with the reasoning that Bajrami was appointed in this post in an unlawful manner. The University was led for a few months by the Leading Council.

In 2006, Enver Hasani was elected rector of the University. During his mandate, Hasani tried to restore order by identifying professors who had plagiarized their PhD degrees. For this action, Hasani did not receive any support from anyone. Even the Leading Council was divided on the matter, some being pro and some against it. Consequently, even during Hasani’s time, not much was done in depoliticizing UP and carrying out reforms.

The most significant interferences of politics were committed during the time when Muje Rugova served as rector of UP. During his mandate, Rugova committed numerous violations. The last two years of his mandate, he was in the position unlawfully, since he had reached the age of 65 and should have been retired.

Mujë Rugova served favors to powerful people of PDK. During his time, Bekim Haxhiu – Kamishi, deputy from PDK and former member of SHIK became an assistant professor. In Haxhiu’s case, all recruitment criteria for the selection of new academic staff were violated.

Just for days short of completing his three-year mandate as rector of Prishtina University, Rugova issued two decisions, according to which 16 candidates obtained the right to register for PhD in the Law Faculty.

According to files obtained by Koha Ditore, the absolute majority of these candidates did not even have the necessary GPA required by call for applications.

The university was not freed from political influence even in the latest elections. Apart from the rector, Ibrahim Gashi, who comes directly from politics and helped PDK in the last elections, other deans and a part of the Leading Council were also appointed in managing positions from politics.

Bujar Dugolli was elected as Dean of Faculty of Philosophy. In the last parliamentary election, Dugolli was part of PDK’s list, but did not win the necessary votes. He had joined this party after leaving The Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK). For a few years, Dugolli served as minister of Trade and Industry. During his post, a large number of public enterprises were privatized, including Ferronikel. Part of AAK’s higher structures was also Ethem Çeku, who was elected as dean of Faculty of Education. Çeku was minister of Environment and Spatial Planning. Çeku had left the party a few years earlier, saying he wanted to commit himself to the academic life.

Even some of present pro-rectors have been linked to politics. Nuri Bexheti is a political advisor of Education Minister,  Ramë Buja, Sejdi Rexhepi for several years has been municipal advisor of PDK in the Assembly of Prishtina.

Even Leading Councils of the University were not spared from politicization. After Arsim Bajrami was dismissed from the position of the rector, the University was led by the Leading Council for a few months. The Council consisted also from people coming from political parties or ones who were linked to them. During the time when Arsim Bajrami led the University for several months, and after he was dismissed, there were tendencies by LDK to stretch its influence in the University through the Ministry of Education, led by LDK Minister Agim Veliu. The consistence of the Leading Council shows this tendency. Some of the members of the Council were part of LDK, such as Isa Mustafa and Haki Demolli. The deceased Rahmil Nuhiu used to be part of PDK.

Mustafa and Demolli were part of the Leading Council even during the time when recto of University was Enver Hasani. Part of LC were also Basri Çapriqi, Demë Hoti, Abdullah Zejnullahu, Hivzi Sojeva, Dukagjin Pupovci and Hivzi Muharremi.

When Isa Mustafa ran for mayor of Prishtina, he was replaced in the Council by Muharrem Bajrami, member of LDK.

In the previous mandate, almost all members of this Council either came directly from politics, or were relatives of politicians mainly from PDK. The Leading Council has many competences deriving from the statute of UP and the Law on higher education, including the mission, development, finances, suspending or dismissing the staff, etc.

Even the current Council  is not short of its misgivings, as regards its political affiliations. The majority of the current Council are closely linked to PDK.

“As regards the election of the academic and leading staff, there are huge anomalities. I believe that the precondition is that one day, hopefully, the leading staff, etc. in the university will not be dicated and appointed by politics. It is simply an insult and humiliation for the entire academic and intellectual world when you allow politics intereference in the life of the university and academia”, says Arben Hajrullahu, lecturer in the department of Political Sciences in Faculty of Philosophy.

Hajrullahu, was quite outspoken as regards the irregularities in the University. He is of the conviction that the university is being exploited as a trampoline in order to advance into politics, but this is not a one-way path.

“I have the feeling that the posts in university serve as reserves in case politics fails and they can return to university to wear the new cloak. In fact, all interference from politics are damaging to the university, damaging to the public, for which unfortunately, there is little sense in this society”, says he.

“It is a vicious circle how they trample on each other by turns, starting from the fact that many cases are suspected of false diplomas, some appointed from politics, the admission of students without any criteria or influenced by daily politics, programs designed for needs of daily politics, etc”, adds Hajrullahy.

Another professor in the University of Prishtina, Ramadan Zejnullahu, in an opinion piece published in the daily Koha Ditore described in details the situation in this high education institution. He spoke of the influence of politics and the shortcomings in the University.

“As regards the Prishtina University, the extent of wrongdoing has long now been upsetting. The management of UP, under strict political control, is degenerating. Groups of individuals finely accommodated in the academic life, for their own interests in decision-making, abuse groups of students, but they can no longer hide their behavior of non-academic, hooligan, criminal and immoral style. They have become so notorious that they have transformed this institution into a private property, and have irreversibly ruined the good image the wonderful students and committed staff in this university had created for years”, says Zejnullahu.

Students of politics!

Politics in Prishtina University has not remained only in the level of management. To a large extent, it has also touched students. Some of the students who have shown to be more enthusiastic in serving politics have greatly benefited after having completed the studies.

“The majority of these organizations place themselves in defense of their political mentors in order to fulfill their initial agreements. These organizations have often interfered in issues which do not concern the students, issues which belong to the judiciary etc, but they never spoke out against corruption in the university, or quality of studies and so on”, says Dukagjin Popovci.

He thinks that the politicization of student organizations has its roots back in 1997, when some organized students could no longer take the situation and the lack of implementation of the agreement on high education, reached between Kosovo authorities and Serbia. In October of that year, they organized demonstrations, without the blessing of the President Ibrahim Rugova.

This is where, according to Pupovci, the influence of LDK over the university ends, an influence which it did not win back even after the war, although it led with the Ministry of Education.

The organizers of this protest, after the war, sided with parties which are known as the war wing. Bujar Dugolli with AAK, and Muhamet Mavraj and Driton Lajçi remained close with PDK.

After the war The Independent Union of Students was led by Afrim Hoti, today professor of Prishtina University. After him came Gani Morina, who was also a soldier of the Kosovo Liberation Army. He was part of the protests organized regarding the arrest of Fatmir Limaj, by the International Court on War Crimes in Hague.

Morina’s Union was also critical towards the talks in 2003 between Kosovo and Serbia. Since the Independent Union of Students dealt more with political issues rather than the problems of students, other organizations emerged from students which aimed at dealing with the issues of students.

It was Sejdi Hoxha who benefited the most by serving politics and not students. Hoxha, now 32 years old, led the Union during 2004-2005. Only a few years later, he is now exercising very important functions in various enterprises as member of the Board of Kosovo Railways, chief executive in Post of Kosovo, assistant in Faculty oif Applied Sciences in Ferizaj, part of UP. Hoxha is the nephew of the deputy from PDK, Azem Syla.

During the time when Hoxha was head of the Union, a fierce battle had ensued between him and Elbazan Hoti for this post. The post was acquired by Elbasan Hoti, and Sejdi Hoxha established another organization. Elbasan Hoti, same as Hoxha, served and continues to serve politics well. Hoti is director of the Center for Social Work in Klina, while his father, Avdi Hoti ran for the assembly as part of PDK for the Assembly of Klina in the last local elections.